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Out on Fraternity Row: Personal Accounts of Being Gay in College

 Posted Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Edited by Shane L. Windmeyer and Pamela W. Freeman

Reviewed by Suzanne Hickey, Graduate Student, New York University

Out on Fraternity Row brings testimony to the hardships and trials young, gay, Greek affiliated men endured during their college years. This book is filled with short narratives submitted by a variety of men, both young and old, in an attempt to illustrate the struggles involved with being closeted or open in the Greek system and/or society. Stories echo of peer pressure and a need to feel a sense of belonging, which are coupled with an inner turmoil and confusion over one’s sexuality. A few stories hint upon the strong religious convictions of parents, friends, and communities, thus forcing some men to experience fear of rejection from those who are close.

The men who have written these accounts had to weigh the pros and cons of their actions and feelings during their college years. Many questioned and contemplated the views, atmosphere, and tolerance of both individual fraternity brothers and the brotherhood during and after rush, pledging, initiation, and active membership. For brave souls who expressed their sexual orientation to fraternity members, the general commonalities included overall acceptance, acceptance by some brothers, rejection by the whole fraternity, or rejection by some brothers. For those who were received by the brotherhood in a negative manner, their stories illustrate the discrimination, bigotry, and hatred that exist in the world. On the flip side, for those received in a positive manner, it is evident that stereotypes are breaking down and that education is working to eradicate intolerance.

Young men who are contemplating “coming out of the closet” would find comfort in reading this book. Through the readings, it is apparent that many men experience the same feelings and confusion as they come to terms with their homosexuality. For some men, they might find comfort in knowing that they are not alone, and are not the first to experience a range of emotions when dealing with their sexuality. The narratives also give a clear indication of the responses an individual should be aware of and prepared for when coming out to a brotherhood, sports team, parents or friends. Some narratives also relate to men who place great value on their fraternity experience and keep their homosexuality a secret so as not to destroy the experience.

A small number of narratives acknowledge the role of God and the Church in forcing a student to remain silenced about his homosexuality. Students fled to colleges and universities far from home, due to fear of their parents and congregation hearing the truth about their sexuality. The overwhelming failure of these authors to mention the role of God or spirituality in their narratives indicates their intentional or unintentional reluctance to form or strengthen their relationship with God. During their tumultuous journey of self-discovery and acceptance, students were alone, unable to turn to anyone or any Being for help and comfort. The majority of narratives provide no evidence of a relationship with God or spiritual development and growth. Instead, a fear of God and God’s punishment is highlighted in some of the narratives.

Aside from the introduction and conclusion, the book is broken up into the following six sections: Silence, Struggle, Fear and Isolation, Truth and Honesty, Camaraderie and Brotherhood, A Straight Brother’s Perspective and Educational Interventions. All of the sections provide a number of entries except for the section entitled A Straight Brother’s Perspective, which unfortunately contains only two narratives.

As stated before, young men who are considering revealing their homosexuality should read this book. While Out on Fraternity Row relates specifically to Greek male students, males who are not Greek can also utilize this book. Through all of these stories, men are contemplating and evaluating their fears, emotions, and reactions from friends over the revelation of their sexual identity. An individual does not have to be Greek to experience these emotions. Eliminate the word Greek, and many other group affiliations can be substituted.

Student leaders from all types of campus clubs should read Out on Fraternity Row. As a requirement and as a discussion tool, Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association members should also read Out on Fraternity Row. Through the guidance of chapter advisors and student affairs professionals, students can begin to realize all the different members of their brotherhoods and sororities, and thus can begin to promote a more open and welcoming environment. While some members will be resistant to the idea of homosexuality within the chapter, others may begin to become more comfortable and accepting of homosexuality, and thus promoting the coming out process.